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Youth Sports and COVID-19: Understanding the Risks

Youth Sports & COVID-19: Understanding the Risk Youth Sports & COVID-19: Understanding the Risk

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many parents wonder if it's s​afe for their children to participate in sports.

Families need to understand the rules everyone must follow during the  COVID-19 pandemic to prevent the virus from spreading. It is also important to consider how many people are infected with the virus in your community, and what is best for your ​family.

To you make an informed decision, we have broken down some key risk factors associated with sports participation during the pandemic.

What type of sport is it?

Sports that allow for individual participation and physical distancing, like golf or singles tennis, are going to be less risky than sports that involve a lot of close contact like basketball or wrestling.


Do players share equipment?

Sports without shared equipment, like cross country, will likely be less risky than sports such as football that are played with a shared ball.


How long are athletes in contact with each other?

Sports with limited exposure to other players may be a safer option. A sprint in a track race, for example, may be less risky than sports that put someone in close contact with another player for an extended period of time, like an entire half of a game.


Is it an inside or outside sport?​

Where athletes train, practice and compete also impacts risk. Data suggests that COVID-19 is more likely to spread in closed indoor spaces with poor ventilation. So indoor sports will likely be more risky. Prioritize outdoor venues for sports whenever possible.

How many players are on the team?

The more people someone interacts with, the greater the chance of COVID-19 exposure. So small teams or practice pods ​​​that stay together, rather than mixing with other teams or coaches, will be a safer option. This will also make it easier to contact individuals if there is an exposure to COVID-19.


Do the teams travel?

Staying within your community will be safer than participating on travel teams. Traveling to an area with more COVID-19 cases could increase the chance of transmission and spread. Travel sports also include intermixing of players, so athletes are generally exposed to more people.​


Are face coverings being worn?

Wearing masks or cloth face coverings​ is an effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through respiratory droplets. This can be extra important at sporting events, where it's common for coaches, players, officials and spectators to raise their voices shouting, singing or chanting. Athletes should wear face coverings for all practices and competitions, with the exception of sports where they may pose an injury risk, such as swimming/diving, gymnastics, competitive cheer and wrestling. Coaches, officials, volunteers, and spectators should also wear cloth face coverings. 


Is everyone following COVID-19 safety procedures?

In order to create safer environments for everyone, new safety procedures should be in place for practices and games. Parents, athletes, coaches and officials need to work together to help keep everyone healthy and safe by following them! When people do not follow these precautions, it can put the whole team at risk. So remember to be a good teammate and fan and follow the new safety rules. See Youth Sports Participation During COVID-19: A Safety Checklist​ for more information.​


​Participating in sports offers a lot of benefits for children and young people. It can improve cardiovascular health, strength, body composition, and overall fitness. Exercise​ even has immune system benefits. Plus, socializing with friends and coaches, and returning to a more structured routine, can boost ​a child's mental health. But consider the risks involved during the pandemic, and make sure the chance of being exposed to and spreading the virus can be kept to a minimum.

More Information

​This information was adapted from material developed jointly by the American Academy of Pediatrics and:​


Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, and the National Athletic Trainers' Association (Copyright © 2020)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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